Common Lies Self-Publ. Authors Believe – Great post by Jeff Bennington (The Writing Bomb)

Posted: May 22, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Jeff Bennington writes insightful posts on his experiences as a writer and as a provider of services to self-published authors.  He’s very active on Twitter and on other social media sites.    Here is his blog site –


As an indie author I have to confess that I am guilty of believing a lie — not just one, but many. They are the same lies I see self-published authors fall for all the time. I see the lies in tweets, in emails, in DM’s and blog posts. The lies run rampant. The lies are deadly. The lies set writers up for failure and they are like a disease that has the potential to thin out the indie author population within a couple of years.

Let me explain.

Lie #1

When I first “self-published” in 2009 I had a serious case of cognitive dissonance regarding the quality of my writing. Some call it narcissism, but in most cases I think it is a curable case of false expectations. Psycho babble? It really isn’t. In my case, I read and re-read my manuscript to the point of exhaustion back in 2009 — a very common experience for most writers. I had others read and edit and as a group we thought, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the book would become a bestseller. Seriously.

In all honesty, I didn’t want to tell myself that I’d become a bestseller for fear of sprouting arrogant wings, but in the deepest part of my mind I truly believed that it could happen with that one book — a common phenomenon for first time authors.

I have since pulled that book off the shelves. I’m embarrassed by it.

I now know that I believed a lie. Many believe the lie that their book will become a bestseller. We see this everyday at The Kindle Book Review. Most of the authors we work with are kind and courteous and very humble, but there are some who firmly believe, as I did, that if they just spread the word about their book, readers will flock to their prose by the thousands.

My remedy to lie #1:

  • The cure to this disease is, of course, time. Time heals all wounds and it also teaches us the truth about our writing. Just because you can publish doesn’t mean you should…yet. Not slamming anyone here; I believed the lie myself. Fortunately, I found the cure: plenty of 1-star reviews and no sales. The medicine went down with a bitter taste, but it did the job.
  • Another cure is humility. Instead of trying to bolster review ratings by soliciting better reviews at the expense of your integrity, try listening to your critics and make improvements.
  • Spend less time marketing your first book and study, read more, and write as often as you can.

Lie #2
I meet writers all the time that get frustrated with marketing. They write blog posts. They tweet. They post on Kindle Boards and yet there is no increase in sales, hitting one or two sales a week at best. They are frustrated because they thought indie publishing would be easy. They thought that they could give a shout out to their Facebook and Twitter friends about their book and the ball would start rolling. This is a lie.

The first lie writers fall for is that writing a book is easy. When they finish, they discover that editing is harder. Then when they publish they discover that selling is the hardest part and nearly impossible, especially if you only have one book. This lie is perpetuated every time a new author hits Amazon’s Top 100 with their debut novel. What many indies do not realize is that authors like Darcie Chan are rare… very rare.

Writing one book takes determination and many qualities that the average person lacks. But writing, publishing, and marketing one book, let alone several, will absolutely consume your life. You will not have a free minute. The life of a published indie author, who is selling, will not be the same as it was before he or she chose to enter the world of publishing. If you think you can write a book, publish and sell without changing your lifestyle, you are believing a big fat lie.

My remedy to lie #2:

  • Adjust your expectations. After consulting with authors who feel overwhelmed, which is not uncommon, most handle the job much better when they change their expectations. When indies realize how much work is involved, and that a writing career requires a slow-boil mindset, they can relax, write more, and look forward to future success. This attitude can generate a healthy home life, and relieve first-book-sale-slump stress.
  • The bestselling indie authors say, “Books sell books” but many first time authors have a hard time accepting that reality. They want to believe the lie because it satisfies their expectations. But the longer you believe the lie, the more painful your reality will become when you learn the truth. Self-pubbing is like your diet; eat junk and you will crash; eat well and you will experience balance and longevity. I recommend spending about 8 hours a month planning your next months marketing (30 days in advance) and spend about 1 hour a day with your social media. Spend the rest of your free time writing.
  • Sometimes we spend all our profits on marketing trying to make our dream a reality, when in fact, all we need is time and an adjustment in our expectations. Look to the future, my friend. Relax your expectations and let your sales grow with time and with more titles rather than expecting that rare bestseller.

So what do you think? Have you believed the lies? How have you adjusted? What caused you to break free from the darkness and into the light? 

Jeff Bennington
  1. Jeff, very good article. Lot of good advice for the experienced and aspiring writers. So easy these days to get caught up in the “social media networking” race which consumes far too much time — valuable writing time. I agree with you on many points.
    All the best,

  2. Kelly Gamble says:

    “Then when they publish they discover that selling is the hardest part and nearly impossible, especially if you only have one book.” I’ve been watching the Indie’s for a while now, planning my attack as I could say, and one thing I’ve noticed is that those with more than one book tend to have a wider marketing capability. I’m trying to get three completed before I even start the process. I would rather take my time and do it right than try to be that one shot wonder, which as you say, is very rare. Excellent post, Jeff.

  3. justinbog says:

    Really great, Jeff. And I so needed to read a post like this. I enter most things in life with the lowest of expectations based on many many past experiences, and the writing life continues to go up and down. Thank you (and Andy too).

  4. TimGreaton says:

    Great article, Jeff. As a guy who has taken years to climb to the multi-thousands sales level, every point rings true to me. Nicely done!

  5. misternixter says:

    Every new indie author should read this before they even think about self-publishing.

  6. philipparees says:

    And you advice for the author over 70 would be? A comforting post even so. So good to explode lies of any kind, and for someone not even on the first rung of the social networking ladder, who has spent a lifetime writing as a result of which few ‘followers’ ‘friends’ and nothing to tweet.. more so. So yes, and thanks

  7. therealtbaggins says:

    Reblogged this on fiftyshadesofgay and commented:
    Good stuff…

  8. I never bought into these lies. I think I’m too cynical. Which is itself not necessarily a good thing. But I’m glad to see someone telling people it’s a lie. It’s hard, though. I’ve been accused of crushing dreams because I tell people writing and selling a book is a long and hard process. When did being honest with people about what they should expect so they aren’t unpleasantly surprised become a bad thing? reality, it seems, only has a passing acquiantance with the indie world.

  9. I’m not surprised. At least half the indie books I’ve read have desperately needed editing. Which made me reconsider my own writing plans, and ultimately slow down and concentrate on learning my craft and getting a better understanding of indie publishing. Your words ring true for me, Jeff.
    It seems to me people are in too much of a rush to get someting, anything published. Maybe so they can say they’re a published author.
    I can see my own work improving with each story, and I’m really enjoying the ride. Baby steps. 🙂

  10. Susan A. says:

    Great advice. I’ve been working on my own novel and people keep asking when I’ll publish it. I answer that I’ll do so when I’m good and ready. First it’s all about learning the craft. Second it’s understanding all the ins and outs before making a decision on publishing. I want to make sure I’m fully prepared for whatever may come. Posts like this help!

  11. rogerdcolby says:

    I fight the lies by Keeping my expectations low, working very hard to produce my best work through LISTENING to criticism and faithful professional editors and proof readers. Thank you for speaking the truth. If I am not a best seller—so be it. If I sell 100 copies I’m happy.

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